Influencer marketing has been the leading channel of recent years. But like any lever for action, it has its weaknesses. As it happens recent studies show the beginning of distrust among users, especially against influencers on social networks like Instagram. Is it the beginning of the end or a maturing of the sector? We have a look.

Alarmist statistics

A study published late last year by PR firm Splendid Communications set the cat among the pigeons. Based on a poll of 1000 British consumers, it revealed that 43% of them judge influencers «often inauthentic», working for brands «which they don’t believe in».

Skepticism is rising among Internet users as influencers flood the net with product placements, particularly on Instagram. (Photo credit: Joe Green, Unsplash

To make matters worse, 52% of respondents concluded that if an influencer promotes a product, it’s because they have necessarily been paid for it, even if it’s not always the case.

Lastly, 61% of Internet users stated they had previously stopped following an influencer who worked with “inappropriate” brands or who promoted too many products. Need we say more!

The closure of Klout

In 2014, the Klout influence measurement tool was purchased for no less than 200 million dollars (170 million euros). Klout gave everyone a score out of a hundred, measured primarily by the number of followers on major social networks.

The Klout tool assessed the influence of each media source by aggregating the social footprint on the various networks, without really being able to identify cases of fraud. (Photo Credit: Klout / Thomas Hawk, Flickr)

But the tool was faced with suspicion due to the ease at which the scores could be manipulated (by building false follower bases). With the fad over, it closed down a few weeks ago, to general indifference.

Skorr has since taken over, without experiencing the same enthusiasm at its launch. So, is the fall of Klout a harbinger of an upcoming crisis for the sector?

Star influencers and their fake followers

The falsification of the number of followers allows pretty average profiles to obtain influencer status at a lower cost, and to take advantage of lucrative contracts offered by inattentive brands. The practice is widespread, but it hasn’t been possible so far to truly estimate its prevalence in the spheres of influence.

A study published by Points North Group in April 2018 caused a stir by actually printing the top 10 advertisers making the most use of cheating influencers. Or to put it another way, a ranking of advertisers that have been taken in the most!

Ranking of the top 10 brands with the highest proportion of fake subscribers among their paid influencers. (Source: North Group Points, 2018)

The big winner is the Ritz, whose paid influencers have 78% of fake followers! Procter & Gamble counts two of its brands in the list, with Pampers and Olay, respectively in fourth and tenth positions. So 32% of followers of influencers for Pampers in March 2018 were purely fake (robots, in short). A bitter discovery for the group, whose spokeswoman Tressie Rose simply made the following statement:

Robot fraud is a widespread practice in the industry, and we are continuing to work actively on it.

The North Points group also cites the case of a major cosmetics brand, without mentioning it by name, of which 30% of the influencer budget – 2 million dollars – had been thrown out the window by impressions involving fake subscribers… that’s 600 000 dollars all the same, spent in vain.

A standardization of transparency

15% of fake Twitter accounts, 60 million fake Facebook accounts, and just as much cheating on Instagram. These abuses jeopardize the potential of influencer marketing. Yet the answer should not come only from the companies operating the social networks, but also from the advertisers themselves.

In this respect, Unilever (whose Magnum brand appears in the North Points Top 10) is a forerunner. The group has indeed adopted three key principles for the management of its marketing campaigns:

  • Unilever will no longer work with influencers who buy subscribers
  • Unilever promises never to buy subscribers for its own accounts
  • Unilever will give top priority to partners who promote transparency and work to eradicate harmful practices in the digital ecosystem.

The pitfalls of influencer marketing are pretty easy to steer clear of. You just need to be aware of them. If necessary, go back to our article on the subject: Influencer Marketing: Pitfalls to Avoid. The activity can thus gain credibility provided that the businesses involved increase their vigilance, and the (real) influencers, their transparency.

Influencer marketing can regain credibility through renewed collaboration between more vigilant advertisers and more transparent bloggers. (Photo credit: Rawpixel, Pexels)

Similarly, cheating seems to affect the vast majority of social networks, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It’s up to marketers to diversify their actions, using YouTube (less concerned with fraud) as well as blogs. A platform like getfluence.com allows you to order sponsored articles from specialized bloggers with certified influence. So there’s no excuse for error!